Entertainment for all

Offering star-studded live shows, dedicated TV channels and artisan dining experiences, today’s cruise lines are competing to create the ultimate onboard entertainment offering. Lindsay James reports

Entertainment for all
Adventure Golf has provided themed miniature golf courses for Royal Caribbean's Harmony and Liberty and Norwegian's Escape

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Creating a unique and exciting onboard entertainment package is of huge importance for today’s cruise operators, who are constantly looking to not only attract customers with a differentiated offering, but also keep them coming back year after year. “A memorable onboard experience is delivered in a number of ways, from the venues and facilities onboard, to the suites our guests call home when they sail with us,” says Gerald Mosslinger, vice president of hotel operations at Seabourn Cruise Line.

Mosslinger says that there are a few hallmarks of Seabourn that really resonate with its guests. “The first, and perhaps most important component, is an outstanding crew. Our onboard team is educated and trained to deliver a luxury experience like no other and this will remain a core focus for Seabourn in the future,” he explains. “Programming also plays a large part and we’re always innovating to keep it fresh, bringing quality talent and speakers aboard. Our new partnership with multi-award winning lyricist Sir Tim Rice is a prime example. Each ship will feature our new flagship show ‘An Evening with Tim Rice’, which will highlight songs from his hit shows as well as the stories behind their creation in a narration by Rice himself.”

Jon Barker, creative director at Elixir, the entertainment division of Consultancy Team UK, also acknowledges the importance of good programming. “As an agent, in recent years I have seen a continuing trend whereby cruise lines ask so much more from their musicians, bands, duos and cocktail pianists,” he says. “Their repertoire needs to be big enough so as not to repeat the same songs and there is much more emphasis on presentation than there used to be. This contributes to higher standards all round and ensures greater guest satisfaction.

“As far as production shows are concerned, again the audience expectation is becoming more demanding and the shows must have a good pace,” Barker continues. “In general, the musical arrangements have to be in line with what the audience sees on TV and experiences in spectacular live shows. The innovative use of technology has become essential to heightening the overall theatrical experience. At Elixir, we have seen this need and created an environment in which our specialists collaborate with clients to design and deliver unique and memorable experiences. The combination of exceptional sound, spectacle and technology, and talented artists to us is the essence of entertainment.”

But it’s not just the live entertainment that cruise ships want to perfect – there’s also demand for exceptional in-room entertainment too. With this in mind, BBC Worldwide has recently launched a global entertainment channel, BBC HD, the company’s first channel produced exclusively for cruise ships and the wider maritime market. It will go live through Global Eagle Entertainment’s MTN TV network, with P&O Cruises and Cunard Line being the first to offer this to their guests.

“We are delighted that our guests will be able to travel the world but still keep up with their favourite television shows for that touch of home,” said P&O Cruises’ senior vice president Paul Ludlow in a press release. “BBC HD will be a superb addition to our in-cabin entertainment, and I am sure will be welcomed by our guests on both P&O Cruises and Cunard.”

Dining is another key part of the entertainment experience, and something that Seabourn’s Mosslinger acknowledges: “We’re in the midst of opening new culinary offerings,” he says. “The Grill by Thomas Keller is now open on two of our ships – Seabourn Quest and Seabourn Encore – and will debut on Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn later this year after dry dock periods. Plus, we opened a new venue on Seabourn Encore, called Sushi, which is a first-of-its-kind for our company and has been a tremendous hit.”

A first-class dining experience wouldn’t be complete without the right tableware, and this is an area where the European company Villeroy & Boch comes into its own. “The right tableware is essential for a complete and harmonic onboard experience for guests,” says Jochen Stähler, marketing director of the B2B Tableware Division at Villeroy & Boch. “Whether it’s a delicious breakfast with our Amarah series that brings craftmanship to the table, a Café Gourmand and High Tea break with the graceful Stella Hotel range, or a fine dining experience with the delicate Blossom collection, Villeroy & Boch undoubtedly has a tableware collection for every occasion.”

When it comes to beverages, Koos Vrijlandt, sales manager for Global Duty Free at premium beer brand Heineken, says that innovation is crucial. “Our dedicated cruise team is creating powerful new synergies, supporting cruise line partners in everything from the quality of the guest experience to onboard operational efficiencies,” he explains. “Our current innovations include Heineken BrewLock – a one way double wall 20 litre keg developed especially for the cruise industry. This innovation meets consumer expectations for outstanding quality at significantly reduced logistical costs and less handling complexity for the cruise operators. BrewLock is already available onboard several vessels with Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.”

Entertaining younger guests is also very important, and this is something that Princess Cruises is investing significant sums of money in. The company is redesigning its onboard children’s clubs, not only giving them a fresh look, but also adding new experiences and games including hands-on science experiments based on the TV show ‘MythBusters’, interactive scavenger hunts and cake decorating. Other non-discovery activities that will be added through the expansion include dance classes, mini golf tournaments, talent shows, video game play, theme nights, paper airplane challenges and Lego boat-building competitions. A family carnival-type experience with booths and activities will also be set up in the piazza.

According to Scott Lundmark, president of Adventure Golf Services (AGS), it’s this all-age onboard experience that is becoming a big trend in cruising today. “More families are taking to the sea than ever before, and creating fun for all ages with a variety of cruise activities is AGS’s speciality,” he explains. “We offer miniature golf, putting greens and courses, golf hitting bays, shuffleboard, croquet and bocce ball courts, and combined paddleball/pickleball courts. Recent projects include highly themed miniature golf courses for Royal Caribbean’s Harmony and Liberty, and Norwegian’s Escape.”

A recent unique installation from AGS is the first onboard SplashGolf course on Norwegian’s Epic. “SplashGolf is water mini golf on a splash pad, taking the game itself and the players into an interactive water environment,” Lundmark says. “This new application is generating discussions with cruise lines entertainment staff for new and retrofit options.”

With so many different experiences on offer, capturing them is a necessity. “Photography provides travellers with a long-lasting memory of a wonderful vacation, and is a treasured part of the cruise experience,” says Keith Packham, managing director at Ocean Images. “Photographs are timeless mementos of halcyon days onboard a luxury liner. New ways of viewing and gathering images are in their infancy, but will – over the next few years – present great opportunities for guest interaction. With many years of experience in the cruise industry, Ocean Images prides itself on keeping at the forefront of technical developments, whilst never forgetting the importance of ensuring first-class guest services to enhance the whole cruise experience.”

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
Thursday, August 17, 2017